Portrait of Grace

He gave to his enemies.

Saul was after David. He felt threatened by David, but Saul is eventually mortally wounded. David becomes king. He establishes his kingdom, and gives us a striking picture of salvation by grace and true friendship.

Meet Mephibosheth. We do not know much about him. He was the son of Jonathan and grandson of Saul. This would have put him in line for the throne, so when Saul was killed, Mephibosheth’s family feared for his safety.

In those days, one of the first acts of a new king was to eliminate any threat from the previous king’s family, so Saul’s family was obviously in a hurry to hide.

2 Samuel 4:4 records, “Saul’s son Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth, who was crippled as a child. He was 5-years-old when the report came from Jezrell that Saul and Jonathan had been killed in battle. When the child’s nurse heard the news, she picked him up and fled, but as she hurried away, she dropped him and he became crippled.”

David did not have any plans to follow tradition of killing the previous king’s family; however, Saul’s family had no way of knowing David’s plans. They hurried, dropping the boy and causing permanent damage to his feet.

For nearly two decades, Mephibosheth lived in a distant land. He was afraid of David, and he was unable to help himself. That is, until grace entered the picture.

David remembered his promise to Jonathan, and fulfilled it through Mephibosheth. David invited Mephibosheth to eat at the king’s table; this was a great honor. David gave Mephibosheth servants and land. In short, David took care of Mephibosheth’s needs.

Sound familiar?

Like Mephibosheth

There are some paralleles between Mephibosheth’s story and our story. We too had needs which were unmet, and we were unable to help ourselves. God, in his grace through Christ, invited us to his table. He offered us salvation to meet our needs.

Romans 5:6 says, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.”

Like David

In many ways, we are also like David. During the course of our lives, we will come into contact with people who have needs. The Lord may use us to meet those needs. When we are tasked with meeting those needs, may we respond with the same grace we have been shown.

 

3 Be’s of Cultivating True Friendship

Social distancing does not have to be a barrier to true friendship.

Proverbs 18:24 states many unreliable friends will bring a man to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

True friendship, especially with Jesus, is an invaluable possession worth seeking. It is a priceless treasure worth offering. You and I have the challenge of being that true friend. We ought to be the type of friend to others Jesus is to us. Cultivating this type of friendship is neither quick nor easy.

In an era of social distancing, developing true friendships may seem impossible, yet the season is right for growth. Placing six feet of physical distance between ourselves does not require distancing our hearts. We can meet digitally, give someone a call, or have a social distanced gathering. Fostering true friendship may be more difficult and look differently than before, but it is a fruitful time for development.

Here are some keys to keep in mind as you meet the challenge of true friendship.

Be Intentional

Be intentional while interacting with others. Our interactions may be via digital platforms like Zoom and Skype, but we can still be intentional in building relationships. No matter the platform, we can place others interests ahead of our own. We can express genuine interest in their lives. We can help others meet needs they may have. Being intentional is essential to starting a true friendship.

Be Bold

Be bold in meeting new people. For some of us, this is the hardest part of building a friendship. We are introverted, so stepping out of our comfort zone is unnerving. Experiencing the rare treasure of true friendship is worth mustering the boldness necessary to step out of our comfort zone.

Be Open

Be open to new relationships. We should be open to new relationships, and not dismiss someone based on his or her interests or age. Most of us have a wide array of interests, so we can find commonality in some way. Intergenerational relationships can produce rich friendships. Older generations have a wealth of life experience and wisdom to offer, and younger generations have much technical expertise and a fresh viewpoint worth noting. We should keep an open mind when approaching someone new.

Finding true friendship is certainly challenging. The outcome is worth the work. We will gain the priceless experience of sharing life with a true friend. We will have someone to help carry our burdens, celebrate our victories, and encourage us through rough times. We will have a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

 

 

Friendship is a Rare Treasure

A friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 18:24 says, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Many friends come and go. We have a temporary friendship which produces nice memories, but the relationship eventually fades. It does not stand the test of time. Distance between people, disputes, and other changes in life cause friends to drift apart.

Solomon states these types of relationships are unreliable; however, there is a friend who will stick with us through thick and thin.

A true friend is a rare treasure. It is someone with whom you can be transparent; there is no need to hide your feelings in fear of judgment. It is someone who celebrates your victories and mourns your losses with you. It is a person who answers the call at midnight when you are in need. A true friend is worth much.

Jesus offers this rare and true friendship to all.

Scripture helps us understand the type of friendship we have with Jesus.

He always remains open to us.

Any time day or night we can ask Jesus for help. The Bible tells us Jesus understands our needs, and the writer of Hebrews encourages us to ask for help. “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need,” says Hebrews 4:16.

Jesus is a friend who will never leave us.

He will walk with us through life. In John 14:18, Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” Jesus is not the friend who runs away when life gets hard. He sticks around.

Jesus is the friend who went to the cross for us.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” Jesus remarks in John 15:13. He laid down his life for us. He sacrificed for us. Jesus is the friend who sticks closer than a brother.

A CHALLENGE

True friendship, especially with Jesus, is an invaluable possession worth seeking. It is a priceless treasure worth offering. You and I have the challenge of being that true friend. We ought to be the type of friend to others Jesus is to us. How well do we do?

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4 Characteristics Worthy of Modeling

He was never king, yet he left a mark in history.

Jonathan was King Saul’s oldest son, yet he was never king. He does not make it into a hall of fame, yet he was a good friend. He was not a star, yet he was respected. In many ways, Jonathan was just an ordinary person.

Jonathan’s life models 4 characteristics everyone should strive to possess.

1. Jonathan was humble.

Jonathan understood David would be a better king. He was willing to look past himself to the big picture. In humility, Jonathan was willing to place himself in second place. It has been said, “There are kings and kingmakers.” Jonathan was a kingmaker.

The kingmakers of the world understand they may not be the best fit for a position. They spend their time looking past themselves to the big picture rather than fussing and feuding trying to promote their own agenda. In humility, they realize their purpose is to make a king, not be a king.

2. Jonathan was a great friend.

Jonathan was a true friend to David.

  • He was loyal to David. When everyone else left David, Jonathan stuck by his side. Job 6:14 says friends should stay loyal even if a person forsakes the Lord.
  • He was willing to share in David’s burdens. Jonathan helped carry the weight of David’s circumstances. A good friend is willing to help carry another’s burden.
  • He encouraged David. Jonathan was willing to go to David and offer encouragement. Jonathan recognized a rough season in David’s life and encouraged him in that time.
  • Jonathan invested in David’s life. Jonathan stepped aside so David could be king. He gave something of his own to David.

3. Jonathan had faith which pushed him to action.

1 Samuel 14 records Jonathan’s daring plan to win a battle with the Philistines. Though outnumbered and overpowered, Jonathan’s faith pushed him to go forward.

Jonathan says in verse 6, “Let’s go across to the outpost of those pagans…. Perhaps the Lord will help us for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he was many warriors or only a few.” Jonathan was not afraid to step out in faith because he believed nothing was impossible for the Lord.

How would our goals and dreams change if we followed this example?

4. Jonathan showed undaunted courage.

The plan Jonathan devised took much courage to execute. He was outnumbered, and the Philistines had to see him. Climbing to the Philistines position required both hands and feet, so for a short period, Jonathan and his armor-bearer were not able to defend themselves. To spite these dangers, Jonathan had the courage to move forward.

Jonathan’s courage came as a result of his faith. He knew nothing was impossible for the Lord.

Taking steps to fulfill dreams and achieve goals can be scary. Much courage may be required. We can find this courage in the Lord. If he is with us, there is no need to fear.

Jonathan certainly left his mark in history. His courage, faith, friendship, and humility are worthy of modeling.

 

The Power of Encouragement

“Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you,” said William Arthur Ward.

Offering encouragement is one of the most powerful ways we can help our friends and neighbors. Everyone needs to be encouraged from time to time, and good friends will encourage one another.

David needed encouragement, and Jonathan encouraged him. Saul was jealous of David and wanted to kill him. Saul would learn of David’s location and chase him, so David was forced to run from one stronghold to the next. Day after day he had to hide in the wilderness. This would have been a discouraging season in David’s life.

1 Samuel 23:16 says, “Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God.” Jonathan recognized a difficult season in David’s life and went to encourage him.

Our friends and neighbors may be going through a difficult season, so they need encouragement. We do not know how heavy of a load our neighbor may be carrying. Encouraging him or her may be one of the most powerful ways we can help.

The Bible suggests we encourage one another daily. We can encourage each other by celebrating victories, offering comfort in disappointment and heartache, and helping one another keep a strong faith.

Here are more ways to encourage one another.

Jonathan and David had a strong friendship in part because they encouraged one another.

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What is true friendship?

3 Characteristics of Genuine Friendship.

A man dialed the wrong number and heard an alarming answering machine message. “I am not available right now. After the beep, leave a message, and I will call you back. I’m making some changes in my life now, so if I don’t call you back, you are one of those changes.”

True friendship is a treasure. We associate with many people, but how many of those people are genuine friends? The Bible gives us a glimpse of real friendship in David and Jonathan’s relationship.

Jonathan was a true friend to David. He possessed the characteristics of a true friend.

1. Jonathan was devoted to David.

Some time after David battled Goliath, Jonathan and David developed an intimate friendship which lasted the test of time. The friends were devoted to one another.

Jonathan did not run away from David when Saul started chasing him. As Saul was chasing him, David’s life experienced an adverse season, and Jonathan remained his friend. Jonathan’s devotion compelled him to remain a friend to David.

Proverbs 17:17 states, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Genuine friendship is built on devotion, hanging in there during good and bad times.

2. Jonathan was willing to sacrifice to help David.

The tension between Saul and David lasted until Saul’s death. Jonathan was willing to make some sacrifices during this time. He risked creating tension between himself and his father, and he stepped aside so David could take the throne of Israel.

In 1 Samuel 23:17, Jonathan tells David, “Do not be afraid, my father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” Jonathan willingly gave up his right to the throne for David.

Jonathan was able to see the big picture. He realized David’s potential and sacrificed to help him. True friends sacrifice for one another. This may be helping carry a burden, offering financial assistance in a rough time, or helping navigate through difficult circumstances. Sacrifice is a mark of true friendship.

3. Jonathan encouraged David.

1 Samuel 23:16 says Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in God. Friends encourage one another.

Friends encourage one another to achieve goals and fulfill dreams. Christian friends also encourage each other to stay strong in their faith. They help in times of trouble and celebrate in times of victory.

Acting

Think of your friendships. Are there areas where you could be a better friend?

 

 

a crowd of people walking

His Friends Didn’t Quit

Overwhelming circumstances and situations are hard, and they can be a barrier to accomplishing goals and fulfilling dreams. We become overwhelmed, so our natural response is to quit. Mark and Luke introduce us to four friends who encourage us not to quit. The Gospel writers introduce these four men through a fifth friend who is unable to walk.

Totally reliant on other people, the man spent his days on a mat. He was unable to move, and his friends cared about him. They made sure his needs were met. They wanted to help the man as much as they could, but there was only so much they could do.

The friends heard how Jesus was performing miracles and helping all kinds of people. “if they could only get their friend to Jesus,” they thought, “what could he do?”

Jesus came to their town one day, so the friends carried the man to see him. They arrived at the house only to see the crowd was large. They had to get their friend to Jesus, but it seemed there was no way to get any closer.

It would have been easy for the friends to quit at this point. They could have given each other a high five for trying and went about their day. What would have happened if the friends quit? There are times in life when it would be easy for you and me to quit. What happens if we do?

Thankfully, the man’s friends decided not to quit. Their persistence helps us understand what it looks like not to quit.

Not Quitting May Be Unconventional

The four friends faced what seemed to be an impossible task. They had to carry a man through a large crowd to get Jesus’ attention. They devised a plan to bypass the crowd and go through the roof. Their plan was unconventional and risky. They could fall; the man could fall, and deroofing might upset the homeowner. To spite the risks, the men proceed.

The friends practiced what John Maxwell calls the Law of Victory. They did not give up when obstacles were standing in their way. They were determined to get their friend to Jesus. “Fulfilling a dream often does not come easy or within the realm of the conventional,” Maxwell says. In this case, the men had to proceed with a plan built on faith. Realizing their goal of placing their friend before Jesus meant stepping out on faith.

We, too, must build our plans on faith and step out on faith to see our dreams fulfilled. Obstacles may stand in our way, so we must be determined to allow the Lord to help us step around them. While it may be risky and unconventional, not quitting may require us to step out in faith.

Not Quitting May Exercise Our Faith

In He Still Moves Stones, Max Lucado says, “Faith does these things. Faith does the unexpected, and faith gets God’s attention.” It certainly did in this moment. Jesus was so moved by the men’s faith that he healed the man lying before him on a mat. The man who couldn’t walk into the house was able to walk out of the house. And, it is safe to say the crowd stepped aside so he could walk through the door.

Though facing overwhelming odds, the four friends were determined to get the man to Jesus, so he was able to walk out of the house. They stepped out on faith rather than quitting.

You may be facing overwhelming odds today. Life may be in a horrible place right now, but please don’t quit. Rather than quitting, devise a plan built on faith

Stop and think about your plan for a moment. Ask yourself these questions.

  • What’s the next step in accomplishing my goal?
  • What’s the next move in fulfilling my dream?
  • What can I do to start going around the overwhelming obstacles? Perhaps it is getting more information, enrolling in a class, asking for help with my resume, or taking the first step to reconcile a relationship.
  • What action step can I take today to start the plan in motion?

Follow the example of the four friends and put your plan in motion. I can’t promise the outcome, but I can relay a promise the Lord gives. That is, he will always be with you. He will not ignore your faith.

Acting

Identify the obstacles standing in your way and enact a plan to overcome them. Ask the Lord to help you each step of the way.

Know a friend who may benefit from this post? Please share it with him or her.

 

 

a man and woman sitting near a grass field. woman's head is resting on man's shoulder.

5 Reasons to Look Through Appearance to the Heart

What would happen if we looked through appearance to the heart? Here are 5 improvements we would see.

We live in a culture which places a high premium on appearance. An individual is judged on his or her looks or popularity. Leaders and potential spouses are chosen based on looks. Online dating apps use a single photo as the first layer of filtering. If someone doesn’t like your photo, they scroll to the next person. Many decisions are based on appearance.

A guy asks a girl to go on a date based on her appearance. An interview candidate receives points based on his appearance. The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” may be true, but I believe there is a better way. You see, one picture cannot tell a whole story.

What would happen if society readjusted our focus from the person’s appearance to the person’s heart? What would happen if we concentrated on a potential spouse’s personality and emotions rather than looks? What would happen if appearance was not considered in choosing a leader? Here are 5 improvements we would see.

1. There would be a rise in self-esteem.

As a society, we would stop beating ourselves up because we were not pretty enough. We would stop comparing ourselves to others’ social media appearance. Self-esteem would rise as we would be more confident in ourselves.

2. New friendships would be cultivated.

We would not be turned off by someone’s outward appearance; rather, we would take time to get to know our neighbor and may discover he is a cool person.

3. Marriages would last longer.

Psychologists state the key to a long and happy marriage is a deep emotional connection. While dating, if more time was spent connecting emotionally, the relationship would be built on a better foundation.

4. Society would be more at peace.

An increase in self-confidence and happier relationships would bring more peace to the world. Bullies would have friends so they would not feel the need to bully. The color of our skin would no longer cause friction. Peace would result as we looked through appearance to the heart.

5. God’s leaders would excel.

Leaders chosen on character without any consideration to appearance would result in the most competent leader always being chosen. The heart would outweigh the outward ability to capture our attention, be entertaining, or the life of the party.

Acting

Will you join me in setting a goal to pay less attention to appearance and more attention to heart? How do you believe making this shift would change our culture?